Friday, November 15, 2013

How to become hopeful

Hope starts small. 

Like a thin winged bird unfurling from its nest for the first time.

I’m learning there is some kind of secret in this brokenness, something sacred to follow winding down the cave walls towards a halo in the distance.

Something to be learned here. About life. About myself.

In the breathing in and letting go. In the exhale.

There is no short cut to happiness.

You have to wake up.

You have to do something every day that makes you happy. 

And perhaps scares you.

Trying out that new trail on your own. Going to a dance class. Calling a friend you haven’t talked to in a while. Beginning the words of that book.

Writing someone a loving note even though they might not return it. 

Praying in that one spot of sunlight.
Choosing to have faith today instead of despair.
Forcing yourself to go outside and breathe in fresh air.


Letting yourself believe in goodness again.

And eventually, one day you realize you are more happy then sad, and there is still a big wide world to be lived out there, whether or not you have the thing you so desperately want. 

Today in San Francisco there is a little 5 year old boy who has been fighting leukemia since he was 20 months old. He is finally in remission and his dream was to become Batman for a day. So through MakeAWish foundation, the city of San Francisco has turned itself into Gotham, and this little boy will live out his dream of rescuing a damsel in distress. Over 12,000 people volunteered to help out.

Perhaps that hope that he would someday wear a cape costume is what kept him alive, perhaps it was the faith of his parents that he would recover.

I know it cost them, to believe, in the face of such raw truth as their little son’s hair falling out.

What this says to me is we want to hope.

We want to fight against that dark wave that meets us in the morning with the reality of our circumstance. 

We want to believe in goodness. And we can.

We want to believe dreams do come true.

And they do.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

When grieving is the only way through

When I hold the baby and realize that it isn’t mine and I am not sure I will ever clasp feet that tiny in my hands, there is a small part of me that wants to walk to a building’s edge and simply step off and feel the fluttering of air before nothing else.

It feels so similar, so close to another time when I lost everything and it is the familiarity that frightens me because it was a dream that died, never realized.

Sometimes I feel what others might call me crazy for, these thoughts that tumble over each other so loud that it’s hard to hear anything else.

Memory doesn’t need the right circumstance.

Memory is wanton with her pictures and her moods and all that ancient fear piles high, like dusty remnants of grey children’s shoes at the holocaust museum, signaling a warning. 

It’s hard not to believe that old lie that sounds like truth:

you will never get what you want. 

This bloodthirsty language that never seems satisfied.

This one red line from another negative pregnancy test is blurring.

The longing doesn't seem worth it because while you might know God is good, there have been times when He has seemed unbelievably cruel. There are moments when I don’t know how to hold both equally in my hands.

I don’t know how to live with hope, leaning bravely into that bright light, while all this world threatens to drag me back into darkness, where the sorrow of so many unmet dreams lie waiting to lay hold of me.

What else will I be asked to lose, what else must be sacrificed, what else must be learned or taught and what will make Him salvage me from all this wreckage?

Where does the hope go? Where does it find breath to live when everything dies inside me?

This grief, it isolates.

Who can understand the fury of a thousand nights shrouded in darkness which fill every space where there once used to beat a heart. 

Who can absorb all that emotion, and anger, and pain that wails and howls in a stormy embrace. Who can live through my despair? They will be crushed under the heaviness of it. I absorb this lonely silence until I can’t stand it anymore.

There are some deaths that cannot be explained away. 

There is only the weeping, and the clutching for the answers that may never come. There is only emptying myself out, telling God about all this war inside me, hoping eventually it will carve out some still space for joy to live.

I go walking out into the fall’s yellow leaves, flaring their last color. I try to remember there is a sliver of peace in the world, if I can just fight to grasp it.

It is such a slippery dance, this holding on and this letting go, this rhythm of every day surrender that I have no control.

I walk past a wooden fence with magnetic poetry art the neighbors have left out with permission to move, and in the midst of all this mundane, there are all these words making music:

feed mystery
expect nothing
find the truth
possible on earth…

fantastic miracles.

The Creator of all this beauty still knows what I need.

Everywhere the trees are spilling their leaves making way for some new dream. 

I pick up one leaf and let it fall to the ground, feeling vulnerable, feeling found.

Friday, October 11, 2013

When the doctors say the word infertility

When I was a little girl, I would dress up baby dolls into clothes and push them around in a miniature shopping cart. I would cook them plastic food on my rainbow colored stove and wear little-house-on-the-prairie type outfits because I guess I thought that's what moms' wear.

I was convinced the most sacred occupation was to be a mother.

I was drawn to the simplistic beauty of pouring your life into shaping another's life, for the good. Something I saw modeled out in my own mother's life.
It was what I most wanted in the world.
It still is....

How to let the fear tight-fisted drain away…

Love casts out fear, it's said.

But I’m one who has to journey through the questions.

How to say all is grace, all is His goodness, when the tube is blocked solid and the pain of decreased chances of birthing new life, is real and threatening every struggle towards joy.

The fear clamors chokingly up my neck as they push the dye through and the pain pinches sharp, and the body trembles.

I already know what they will say.

Too much research already in my head, even though I can barely pronounce the name of my procedure.

The driving home is a blur. The days that follow, a numbness.

There are tests and more tests. Fifteen vials of blood.

At first, it seems ok, my chances only reduced by 25% and just as I get accustomed to this news, they strike me with another blow.

My AMH hormone is too low. It’s unlikely I’ll get pregnant naturally at all. They say words like IVF as I try to breathe over the phone. They refer me to a fertility clinic.

We don’t seem to talk openly about infertility or fertility struggles, just like we don’t seem to talk about ectopic pregnancies or miscarriages, or babies lost too early.

Yet 1 in 8 couples struggles with fertility. And these numbers seem to be rising. Maybe it’s time we started embracing one another through this process and listening more to our bodies.

One of the main reasons we left a home in Africa was to start a family. Because God told us and because it’s what we wanted, and it was too dangerous for us to do there. Not to mention what 6 years in Africa and multiple illnesses, and antibiotics, and toxins do to your body. For the last 9 months I've been in recovery mode.

After years of often sacrificing myself, health, and sometimes my husband, for ministry, I’d learned that nothing is more important than him and family trumps ministry or good deeds every time.

Love is more important than our job description.

Love for God, love for self, these are important principles. So important, that love for others can’t flow when we do not care for, and love ourselves. It’s been a long journey into the revelation that I am just as important to God as everyone else and taking care of myself, and my body is not a bad thing.

It’s part of how we worship Him. It's the door through which I'm truly able to love others.

For some of us “helpers” or “caretakers” this is harder to step into. We use giving as a way to gain love. But the truth is, we are already loved. Without condition.

Henri Nouwen says it better: “The greatest gift my friendship can give you is the gift of your Belovedness. I can only give that gift insofar as I have claimed it for myself.”

For those of us a bit hard headed, we sometimes have to get forced into taking care of ourselves.

It's more difficult than you think. To care for self as you would someone else, to be kind and speak life over yourself rather than criticism and negativity. 

So I dug into all the research on taking care of my body full force, ordering so many books on Amazon that Tyson joked about closing my account.

I read so many online forums from women on what to do and what not to do. So many sad and hope-filled stories.
Every time Tyson would ask me if I was reading “those online forums again,” I would lie and say no. But secretly I was. I couldn't help myself.

I read about the serious linkages between fertility and diet and our ability to affect our hormones, and went all organic veggies and fruit, and plants, and protein and legumes. I read so much research they actually began to contradict each other.

Drink whole milk for fertility.
Don’t drink milk at all.
Eat complex grains.
Be gluten free.
Eat meat. Don’t eat meat.

It’s enough to drive you crazy. I gradually crossed so many foods off my list I would just stare at a menu trying to figure out what I could eat and what might kill my chances of being a mother.

No pressure.

I ordered vitex and maca root, and red raspberry leaf tea, royal jelly and every other herb known to man to make me more fertile.
And I literally talk to my body.
But I only do this at home.

I gave up caffeine and soft drinks and wine (ok this one, for the most part. I’m not a total saint)

I bought glass instead of plastic and non-toxic cleaning supplies.

I started acupuncture and drank really nasty herbal drinks, and even, get this….started meditating.
I envision my body being pregnant in my mind’s eye. I visualize it. I breathe.

I exercise. I run four, sometimes five miles a day.

And I’m supposed to do fertility yoga poses for blood circulation. I have no idea how stupid I’m going to look doing that, but it’s probably a close second to saying positive things to myself in the mirror.

But most importantly, I've tried to let go of stress and have had to slowly step back from stressful situations and learn how to manage my stress in healthy ways.

You will have to make tough decisions for the life that you want. 

Over the last 2 months I’ve done everything right.

I prayed too, of course, I’m not a total heathen.
I ordered Supernatural Childbirth and listened to it over and over and prayed prayers over my belly.

It was a fight to have faith.

It was heavy to push past all the doctor’s words, and my own internal feelings, and choose to believe that I will be a mother. That God desires for me to get pregnant, and that I can do this naturally.

I believe I can.
It is always a fight to hold onto our promises, and the truth of what we know inside ourselves.

It’s not that there is anything wrong with IVF, or anyone who chooses it. It might come to that. But it’s just that I can’t make my body want to go through that yet. (not to mention, the costs)

I guess I’m still a Romantic. I still want to hold out for the miracle.
I still believe its possible, and while that hope lives inside me, I want to listen to it.

There is actually a lot of research that says that our intuition, our body, the Spirit living in us, already knows what is right for us, already knows what is possible. 

There are countless women who trusted their instincts and were able to get pregnant the way they wanted.

We have to trust it.

But I already know a lot about holding on.

How to cling knuckle tight, and do more, and work harder, and fight longer, put nails to dirt, bent, to dig for any kind of treasure in the dark.

With hands clenched, white and grasping, the fear only gains momentum.

But like I learned in Uganda, there comes a point, when we’ve done everything we can, and holding on looks a lot like waiting, and a lot like exhale.

I go running on the trails up here in Marin. I go deep in the woods, and crest mountains. It’s beautiful. Last week, I stopped to stare at a view, and catch my breath (let’s be honest,) and I just said to God and to nature, and to the universe,

“I’ve done everything I can. It’s up to you now. I believe I can get pregnant. But I know I can’t control it. So I’m saying, 

I’m still going to do my best, but I’m letting go.”

And breathe.

Sometimes there is silence, but often there is the nudging, ever so still and quiet, that God is going to take care of me. That what He has said is true.

What if this growth only comes the hard way, the surrender way?

What if God is teaching us about letting go
and trusting
and resting in His assurances, those words He whispers in the dark
that He is good
and nothing can change that.

On all the online forums I read, one thing that struck me was the beauty of these women offering each other hope from their own experiences.

To those who had come out the other side…extending a hand to say that it’s possible, and to have faith in God and faith in their own bodies. To trust. Even despite what the doctors have said.

And while I haven’t come out the other side yet, I trust.

And hopefully that can inspire someone else to trust along with me.


For those seeking more resources:

On loving self:

Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown
Unconditional Love by Abi Strumvoll
Anything by Jack Frost
Understanding your personality and points for growth

On Fertility:

The Fertility Diet
The Infertility Cure
The Fertile Female
Making Babies
Circle and Bloom Meditation
Restoring Fertility Yoga

And if you just need to process...I'm still learning myself...but you can email Or find a safe friend you can talk to---we all need help walking through the dark.

ps: Don't worry you don't have to keep your babies or baby news away from me. I've actually heard that smelling babies helps so just don't be offended if I start sniffing your baby like it's fresh baked bread

Friday, August 23, 2013

What if we were brave enough to let go

There is a perfect time of day. 

Somewhere in the space between the sun waning and the first evening chill converging, where the light is a faded gold, like an old photograph, and the landscape is bathed in wonder.

Most days, the exquisiteness of this moment escapes me. I am busy with emails, or exercising to burn more calories, or preparing dinner. I am hurried by my never-ending list of things to do.

But what if God created the world to be enjoyed, and I, along with it. 

What if every sunset was made to be watched, breathed in deeply, and exhaled with the last vestiges of light.

I went running at this perfect time of day, without headphones.

This is not something I do and this was not a choice, more like a reality forced upon me when my husband left the house with my set. At first I was angry because I’m the kind of girl who likes to listen to rap music when I run, to really get me pumped up for all the torture.

But then I realized this was an opportunity to practice what I had been reading about that morning---being present. 

As I put one foot in front of the other, I willed myself to be present. To hear and to feel the rhythmic pounding, to pay attention to the sweat trickling down my forehead, to the pain in my left knee, to the noises the birds were making in the trees. To feel the sun absorbed into my pores.

At first it was uncomfortable, as though my mind wanted the distraction, needed it in fact, as though my body was poised for a mutiny.

But as I ran, it became easier, and I began to let go. 

I slowed down time. I didn’t rush past it. I didn’t drown out the pain with every laborious breath. I didn’t think about what I had to get done tomorrow. Or worry about what other people thought of me. Or perpetuate my own mind’s negativity. Or think about how I wish I were skinner.

As my senses noticed things around me, I saw the couple lying in the grass with their new baby, and heard the shrieks of two little girls as they squirted water guns for the first time, laughter soaked.

I felt alive. 
I felt thankful.

And it was my own prayer, my own meditation.

The hardest thing about leaving Africa, was losing all that purpose, all that being needed, and wondering whether I was really doing something worthy on this earth without being focused on a mission outside my own personal growth or happiness.

Wondering if I had purpose without being focused on something outside simply loving God and letting myself be loved by Him and letting that love trickle out. 

I've spent a lot of time wrestling with whether it was enough to just be, as though I needed the world’s permission to choose things that made me happy.

I have been practicing trying to live as one who is loved, as one who loves myself, for years, but I’m not sure we can every truly know this fact until the thing which has given us our most meaning, is released.

I find this can happen either by it being stripped from us, still clinging, or by us having enough courage to surrender it. 

This is the moment our beliefs our truly tested.

So much mental energy is spent trying to keep things at bay, trying to push fears down, but when they surface, and we stop fighting, and surrender to their truth…..

It’s the most perfect time of day.

And all that’s left are choices.

What are we willing to let go…..

Read some other thoughts on letting go by my friends over at Storyline here. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Know thyself

I lived my life in emergency mode for so long I almost forgot what it felt like to have some peace. 

There was always a problem to solve, a sick kid who needed taking to the hospital, a government office who didn’t understand our heart, a mama who needed a hand held while she took an HIV test, a landlord who wanted to raise our rent, a donor who needed an explanation.

They say Africa is not for the faint of heart for a reason.

And while I might love her dew and her dust, her people, the suddenness of her rain storms, there are some things I don’t miss. 

Like the glimpses of injustice everywhere. Like getting the run around from offices when you are trying to do the right thing.

Like all the obstacles to Peace

The stress can pile on like a load of dirty laundry and I wonder:

How many of us live our lives like we’re on Grey’s Anatomy, shifting from one emergency room drama to the other without really checking our hearts. 

How many roles we fill, how many hats we wear that we wish we could shrug off for a while. And yet, how these hats are the very things that fill us.

A couple of weeks ago I camped out in Mammoth with my man, to the kind of fire-side quiet that puts yours bones at rest.

Now that I’ve found a sliver of peace, I don’t want to let it go. 


I’ve been thinking a lot about babies lately.

All that crying might screw with my zen.

But oh….all that curly-headed goodness. All those puffy cheeks, and stubby legs. All the ways they make you laugh without meaning to.

Thinking about all the sacrifice. Thinking about all the reward. 

Thinking about all the mama’s who move throughout the day herding their brood, with little thought to themselves.

I’m wondering if I’m really ready for that.

It’s either that, or I’m bringing home a puppy.

What I find unbelievably crazy is that when I ask mothers if it was all worth it, they will most undoubtedly say, yes. 

And yet, in some ways, I can understand it. Because if someone asked me if Africa was worth all those spent hours, all those bottled tears, all those frustrations, the loss of my body, my health, and my baby, I would say, “yes.”

Socrates said to “know thyself.” 

I’ve spent many years getting to know this complicated girl.

Many years spending myself on the sands of Africa and I know what it is to spend.

Love is like that. We have to spend, we have to invest, if we want to see the ruins become beautiful.

We hiked to this waterfall. It was farther, it was harder, but when we got there, we were alone and we jumped into the freezing cold waters, laughing.

I am the kind of person who has to ask the question. Who has to explore all the outcomes before I can truly give myself. But once I decide to, I am fiercely loyal.

We have to know what we are ready to give. And above all, we must know what we need to remain ourselves.

I went running today to burn off the tightness in my neck and somewhere between mile two and three, I felt the edge of an epiphany.

We must know ourselves enough, to know what we need, and to know where we want to give of our energy. 

Because there are only so many places it can go.

I was driving in my car today, and started crying at this song on the Christian radio, which is not something I normally do. But the guy was singing “I am,” and it made me realize that God knows who He is, and nothing frightens him.  He just is.
And if the Trinity is enough for him, maybe it’s enough for me too.

Even if all I know is that I want to give myself to God. To the brokenhearted.
To the people that I love. And to a baby, someday soon….

Without giving up my peace:

things like running, or my writing on this back porch as the sun slips away.

I’m sure I will lose some of myself. I’m sure I will discover new things I did not know were there.

And I think that’s ok.

I believe the world will be saved by those who have recovered their hearts; those on a journey of knowing themselves. Those who know what they are called to give themselves to, at each season in their life.

I think I’m just looking for people who are on that journey too.

Are you?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Missionary Meets Monotony

It's been six months since we left Africa. 

Six months since I put a sandaled foot on her and breathed her sweet, smoky air after a hard rain.

I'm starting to have a routine, starting to have an order to the chaos.

I like California. What's not to like about California? The weather. The people. It's pretty dang amazing.

I like my little one bedroom cottage apartment I live in.
Even my neighbors are nice. They remember to drag our trash to the curb when we forget because we're not used to organized garbage trucks.
Rules. Things like, only a certain amount of waste can go in the bucket, and it can't be overflowing, or they'll reject it.

That's weird.
I like being able to work out and juice things.

But well, I'm bored.

I know, it sounds crazy. Isn't this what everyone wants? A home. A great husband. Maybe throw some kids in there.

But after six years of living desperate and going from one drama to another, and solving problems I didn't have answers for, and loving past what I thought was possible, and giving until my body gave out, this normalcy, this rest, is like a foreign bubble I'm not sure I want enveloping me.

Like it's going to put me to sleep.

I think the hardest part is feeling closer to God. Craving the adventure with Him.
But finding myself under a pile of laundry and emails.

Wanting Him. But trying to find a way to connect to him here, in this maze of mini-vans and self-serving pleasure.

The biggest difference is every morning I woke up in Uganda, I needed him with a hunger that was never satisfied because I was living outside what was possible for me, alone.

It's not so much the place, but the mission.
The dream bigger than our dreams.

Don't get me wrong---I'm busy. I have mountains of to do lists scrawled out on papers, and hammered into my Iphone. Every day with this ministry, there are more things to do, then get done.

But yesterday, talking to my country director over Skype--supporting her as she carries out this thing God built, I felt


I look at the slideshow of my African family on my computer, and I crave those hugs. Crave those stories.

We can know we are supposed to be somewhere, before God bursts into our world with some new dream, but it doesn't make the in-between any easier. 

Here, coming alive is harder. We have to seek it out, a treasure not easily won.

God hasn't left me. And He hasn't left America.

I just need a new set of lenses to see Him. Make space for Him, where there isn't any.
Maybe that's my few moments on the back porch.
Maybe it's singing loud Jesus Culture songs in the car.
Maybe it's offering to help the mom with four kids in the checkout line.

Or maybe it's heading to Mammoth Lakes where I'm pretty sure God lives in all the jagged rocks, and lakes, and crevices there. Which is what I intend to do.

Hey, I'm still me. If it's not risky, it's not worth doing.

Where do you find Him?

(Ps-I'll post pics soon so you can be jealous :)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Let's Get Real

Tragedy happens. 

I don't believe anyone who woke up the morning of the Boston Marathon believed that they would lose limbs, or worse, loved ones.

And yet deeper than the scars on their bodies, the scars they will live with from that day, are the ones on their hearts. And yet many will get up and move on, without considering:

The heart requires bandaging as well. 

And it got me thinking about something I've been mulling over for a while.

Being in ministry I understand the pressure to have it all together. To keep things hidden.

To hope that everyone else thinks you are doing fine.

It's the very fact that we will be criticized that keeps so many missionaries, pastors, and leaders from sharing the hardships, struggles, pain, and seeking their healing.

Often how real we are willing to get is correlated to how much freedom we can obtain.

But too many times the heavy weight of ministry and the many roles we must fill, steals our time and our energy away from God's presence and the pursuit of our own healthiness.

When I heard about Rick Warren's son's suicide, I was deeply grieved. My heart aches for the family. I do not know all the circumstances and I say this without judgment towards them or anyone else, but it was just another reflection to me of what is going wrong in the body of believers, in ministries, and in our churches.

We focus outward, to build things for God, instead of focusing inward. 

We struggle with problems, our family struggles with problems: addiction, depression, anger, tragedy, marital issues, suicide and yet,

there isn't a safety net of non-judgment surrounding us to usher us into authenticity and healing.

We feel we have to cover up, hide, be perfect.

Until everything crumbles around us.

Some might say, that suicide cannot be avoided for some people, but I would not agree.

Even in the Nazi concentration camps Viktor Frankl worked with those who were suicidal, asking them what good thing they could bring into the world. It wasn't long before those who were once depressed gained hope their lives could have meaning.

I do not say this as a failure of the Warren family, but a failure of all of us to extend grace, non-judgment, and healing help to those in need.

A failure to be a safe place for people to be vulnerable about their need for intervention.

It is a wake up call to all of us to realize that those in ministry are often the very ones who need healing the most. 

We must begin to prioritize our own healing. We must prioritize the inward healthiness of ministry leaders, and people, over their outward gifts or their calling. And we must offer counseling and inner healing options with the help of Father's love and spirit to patch up the bloodied and broken.

But first we must be willing to be honest with ourselves. 
To prioritize this in our own lives above other people's approval. 

To recognize that we cannot do it alone and we were not made to.

I too have clawed my way out of darkness.

My own journey of healing has been spatters of light, groped desperately. 

As I'm writing my book now about this journey, I see the glimmers of redemption, like sunlight breaking through slits in the blinds.

I see the people who gave me the safety to be real.

I see myself falling into my Father's arms in sonship.

That this is a constant battle and an endless journey. And it takes hard work.
But it is so worth the fight.

I pray that we join hands in our own journey towards wholeness.
I pray we will be safe places for one another.

And I pray that you join me.

**If you are interested in pursuing your own healing or want to offer help to someone else, I would recommend the following: Catch the Fire (School of the heart or Leader's Schools), Theophostic Prayer Ministry, Father Heart Ministries, Shiloh Place, and Storyline by Donald Miller (Onsite Workshops)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Chasing the Sunlight

"How do we stop living like life is an emergency. Something to be sped wildly through."- AnnVoskamp-

I am thankful for the sound of the ocean crash on the sand. 

Yesterday I did something I normally don't do.

I took a day off. (insert dum, dum, dum, soundtrack here)

A mid-week day, mind you.

It was 80 degrees out and the road was calling.  So I hopped in the car and did a spontaneous trip to Santa Cruz and Capitola with my husband.

Now before you get all shocked and disapproving and assume I've turned into a hippie who works part-time and surfs the rest---hear me out.

Life goes at a maddening pace. We work late into the night. And for some of us, we do this giving our lives away for others---out in the war zones, mission fields, and in service to seek and save and restore those who are broken and lost.

Sometimes, we are the ones who work hardest of all because we have a really good reason for what we're fighting for. And some of us just want to make the benjamin's baby, and that's cool too.

But either way, sometimes we're the ones who get lost. 

But what I've been wondering about lately, is----

What is really underneath all this busyness?

Are we trying to prove to the world how wonderful we are, how much value we have, that if only they could see how hard we work, they would know what a superstar we are.

That they would give us their approval? 

Do you ever hear people talk about how busy they are doing "good things," "ministry things" and they list off all the things they are "doing" as if it was some sort of self-pat-on-the-back. A resume of their many accolades.

My husband calls it the humble brag.

It's really just annoying. I know, because I totally used to be one of those people.

What is funny about this whole scenario is that my husband I slide happily into the workaholic slot on a more common daily basis than most.

But lately I've been wanting more. Wanting to slow this life down to a present moment of digging my toes in the warm sand, or feeling the cool Marine breeze spatter my face with ocean sprinkles.

Stopping to be thankful and filled with joy.

And figuring out what are those things that fill me with joy anyway?

Remembering God and that He wants to enjoy me. Enjoy. Me. 
And there is no substitute for that.

So I lied on the beach. I attempted to do work to soothe my guilty conscience but ended up managing to do just journaling, rolling over, getting sunburned, playing disc golf, and eating a lot of Mexican.

And I decided to be ok with that.

Sometimes, I think without me, this whole thing I've built, would crumble in upon itself like a volcanic mountain.

Leaving a bunch of lava in its wake.

When the reality is, I came home, and no one had died, 
and I actually smiled today remembering yesterday and the memories I created. 

I make myself bigger than I really am.

And I make fun of hippies who surf all day (don't we all) and judge them, meanwhile secretly envying their life.

When really, this is the life I've chosen for myself.
And I'm the only one who can change it.

I took a piece of that sunlight from yesterday and dragged it into today, and tomorrow I'm going to try and find another moment to get lost in that will drive me to be present.

Present, where God lives. And trusting. Trusting him to pick up where we leave off.

What do you do to get present?

(And if you have no idea what I'm talking about...this is a great video from Ann Voskamp:

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

This elusive thing called balance

Sometimes we have to celebrate our victories in our life, no matter how small they might seem.

Like when we say no to a bowl of ice cream. Or hold our tongue from saying that mean word that could wound.

As hard as it is to have grace with ourselves, it's just as important as having grace with others.

Stopping to celebrate our victories is an act of stopping to give thanks. 

I realized the other day that often my life feels like a long to-do list and my iphone is full of more apps on keeping my list straight then it is full of pictures. (Even though I love my Clear app) I wish I had more pictures of experiences. Of life.

I'm often more concerned with checking things off my to do list than engaging in real relationships. Or in taking the time to be loving.

To be honest, sometimes I feel guilty when I just "enjoy life."
It's like I don't remember how to do it.

I've been out there on the edge so long listening to rape stories, or trying to figure out how to parent a bunch of growing girls in Africa, or how to successfully run a growing ministry that needs about 100 more me's.....that I don't have time or brain energy to just be----well, happy.

In the last week, I ran a total of 13.5 miles. Which might not seem like much, to all you work-out buffs out there, but it's the farthest I've ever consistently run. I also drank juice smoothies all week. With kale in them. Yeah, that green stuff. I'm going extreme. And it feels great!

This is all part of my new regimen to "get healthy."
Since Africa made me tired....and well, fat. (for all your girls out there thinking that moving to Africa will make you skinny---sorry to break your dreams)

When you can find something edible to eat, it's usually carbs.

Long-term stress also doesn't do a lot for your figure.

This whole health kick started around the time that I stopped wanting to see myself in pictures. You know, that feeling when you realize you haven't been photographed in a while, and then all of a sudden you see yourself, and you're like what!! Is that me? And want to run and hide yourself in a large, oversized potato sack.

Women in their thirties will understand this better.

So I'm trying to establish some balance in my life. Because I'm supposed to be working on taking care of me, and working less hard, and being more well-rounded.

We as women, struggle so hard at this. How to balance being a woman, a job-holder, a wife, a mother, a leader, a friend, being in shape, making a good meal, being a nice person or even a person who occasionally does her hair and remembers to send that birthday card.

And sometimes we can get so busy with "saving the world," that we forget that we actually need saving too.

I know I have a long ways to go, but to be honest, I feel really proud of myself that I've begun. That I've started this journey of health, in ALL areas of my life, and that whether or not I can see the differences yet, I know the resolve is there.

I also wrote two blogs. Walked in the sun. Laughed 'til my sides hurt with a girlfriend. Read a book. Went on a date. And watched the Life of Pi. All in all, I think I'm onto something here.

I'm learning to live.
And learning not to feel bad about it.

And realizing that ultimately true balance comes from being obedient to what God asks us to do. Not responding to needs. Not more. Not less. 

And saying goodbye to all the guilt.

Friday, March 15, 2013

What's the big deal about a pillow?

I didn't really think about how different it would be and how hard to face this world of luxury again and not let it seep inside me, to take over my will.

As I try to bridge my two worlds of Africa, love, and lack, and the over-abundance of where I live, I feel off-kilter as I straddle these two extremes.

I'm going to make a faux pas here and bring up a tabooed subject. And believe me, I'm just as uncomfortable with it as you are.

Poverty and Plenty. Lack and Abundance. Things We Need vs Things We Want.

How we can have so much when the rest of the world has so little.

The life we are told to want instead of the life we actually desire to live.

My husband and I talk late into the night about these things. The path that we've chosen. The costs associated therein.

Our quality of life versus the quantity of what we have.

We're in our thirties and we don't own a house, any property, and barely a car which we both share.

We've spent the last six years giving our lives away in Africa and we're trying to take a break without letting the world we've entered become our reality. Without feeling inadequate. But that's hard.

I try to listen to the advice of our older, ex-Peacecorps friends who have a world of wisdom underneath their belt after having lived in and left multiple countries.

That we've chosen an alternative path and it's going to look different than most people, but the rewards are great as long as we can learn to be content with what we've chosen, and be kind to ourselves. (paraphrasing their brilliance)

I admit, I'm not doing a very good job.

What it looks like most often is coveting something I definitely "have" to have for my new nest, buying it, and then two days later returning it out of guilt. Or lack of funds.

I have as much Carrie Bradshaw in me as the next girl, but it got me thinking......

It's crazy what we can convince ourselves we need. And it's even crazier we can live on credit.
And scary.

In Africa, there is no credit. 

Think about it: If you don't have money for food, you don't eat. That simple. 

I feel like a hungry kid who wandered into a candy shop.

Here our things own us. Our mortgage, our cars, our Gucci bag, our debt.

You won't believe how many people tell me they wish they could do what I do, but they can't because of debt. And it makes me so sad.

But here I am, back in America, staring at that gorgeous new designer pillow. (I HAVE to have it!)

But do I really have to have it?

Does that really directly impact the life I want to have in a positive way?

A life where time instead of money, is my most precious resource. 
Where love is my most traded commodity. 

Where the hours with my husband matter more than the amount of money he can bring home.

Where I can invest in my own growth, in God, in relationships, and in traveling the world to experience new things, with my hot husband.

How often do we trade real life for the allure of something we can own. 

Or even real life for fake life. You know, TV.  (I cringe as I write this because I'm the biggest hypocrite. I love TV shows.)

I'm at war with these things, as I try to settle into "real life," but not get caught up in the American dream.

The reality is that having a mortgage and driving a LandRover isn't really my dream, even though the world will tell me different.

It will say that it's what I want. Because others have it.

But it's just not true.

When what I really want looks more like being a healthy, whole person, and sitting with my sisters in the dust of a land many thousands of miles away.

What I really want looks more like being a supportive wife and eventually the coolest mom on the block.

What I really want is to hug the beautiful, black arms of so many I love, and to see their lives transformed.

What I really want is to bring beauty to the darkest places on earth. 

But how to tell myself that when I'm staring at a gorgeous pillow that exactly matches my color scheme.

What's weird is I actually think that Jesus wants us to be happy. And balanced. And that the abundant life, the prosperous life, is His desire for us, as long as it doesn't consume our heart.

Money isn't the root of all evil. Our orientation to it though, can be. Whether we are rich or poor. 

What dominates the thoughts of our heart?
Envy is an equal sin to greed.

How to walk the line of self-denial, while still allowing for things that bring me happiness.

How to sacrifice without turning away blessings.
How to be content with both poverty and wealth.
How to believe for abundance, but still live within our means.
How to be comfortable in a mansion or a mud hut.

That's where I am, in the middle, trying to figure it all out. 

Trying to figure out if we are brave enough to follow our own hearts, our own spirit, our own gut, instead of the way of the world.

Even if it means looking less "normal."

And when my husband makes the right choices, when I make the right choices, when you make the right choices, maybe it's ok to splurge a little on that pillow that's going to make your house, a home.

Thoughts on justice

It's been a few weeks since I returned from the Justice Conference in Philly. But many of the thoughts, emotions, and inspirations sit with me as I go back to my new existence in America that I'm still getting used to.

I've been compelled to write about something I've been thinking of for a while.

This Justice movement, so beautiful and brave, and yet how do we make it more than just a fad?
More than something "cool" to get involved with or post on our facebook.

More than something other people will pat us on the back for.

What does love look like when the feelings seep away?

When justice is just, as Gary Haugen says, "A long obedience in the same direction."

When the paperwork, and hospital stays, and endless meetings squelch out that glamorous dream we had of changing lives. Or "saving the world."

When we realize we aren't White Saviors.

Just broken people trying to love on and heal up other broken people.

Above all, justice is commitment. 

When it's not fun anymore. When the heart gets used to seeing terrible things, when the shiny glimmer of thinking I'd just hold beautiful African babies all day, dies away.

Justice is love when it's hard. When the ring gets tarnished over years. When it all seems like more emails to answer, or problems to solve, than picture-perfect moments.

Will we stay when we can't find the reasons anymore. When it doesn't serve us?

Because that's where true sacrifice begins.
Where true love begins.

Somewhere after the novelty wears off.

And we have to tuck deeper and deeper into Jesus to find the love, to give away.

This is not a sprint. It's a marathon. And this is what we must know before we begin.

Justice has to be inside us. Saturating all our relationships. We can't seek to free the sex slave, when we can't offer love to our families, husbands, friends. Or even ourselves.

It has to be our whole person.

Justice is not what is fair. Justice is what ought to be. The redemption of ALL things.

It must be more than the sexy buzz words, than the twitter feed, than Toms shoes.

It requires more tedious acts of love than we know are necessary to bear.

All our staff, all our volunteers, have to move past the rosy-colored version of service, into real life, real pain, real loss, and sometimes real disappointment.

It's the only way to get to real reward.

And it is so worth the fight.

So ask yourself, what are you really ready to sign up for?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

when we need to be thankful

When the mommy brigade takes over Panera with their newborns I want to run.
In fact I do run, right out the front door.

Tiny heads with tiny hats on them. Little animal-eared sweaters. Most days it doesn't affect me. Most days I don't feel like the air has been squeezed out of my chest. But today I do.

Sometimes we don't understand why. 

Why so many around me this year carried that hope in them, that new life, only to have it be snuffed out. Why good people, the best people, lost the most precious thing in the world.
And the pain came in waves that wouldn't stop.

I don't get these things. 

There are so many things we can live without. Without nice cars and kitchen cabinets. Without ac and cheeseburgers. Without the people we need nearby.

We don't know until we have to. But then we do.

But we cannot live without love. 

So when he rolls over and holds my face in his hands through my mascara and tears,

I feel the world come into focus.

On days when I want to feel really sorry for myself, or really angry that it hasn't happened for me, on days when the waiting seems unbearable,

I glance over at this person, who knows to put on a comedy series when I can't stop crying,

who knows how to tether me to a singular hope when I want to give up, 

and my whole broken and battered heart wants to implode with gratitude

that he is mine.

The world is not fair. We're never quite where we want to be.

But there are sparks.

We have to catch the shimmer.

We have to say thank you for what is here and now.  And sit with it.

For when someone is exactly what you need them to be.

For when he gets it right.

For sunny days.

New best friends.

Any tiny chihuahua's who lick your face, named Rosalita-Chiquita-Banana-Pants.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Most people would think that moving to Africa was the scary part. The big leap.

But it wasn't. It was the most natural thing in the world. Moving back to America.
This is the scariest thing I've done in a long time.

Here the fears are loud.

Will God provide?
Will I become selfish?
How will I not let God get drowned out by all the noise?

Will I love who I am when someone is not calling me “Mama.”

How to straddle these two worlds with any of me left in between. 

Over there God is in all the crevices of my day.

I'm spilling out all the time. No time to think about me or be ungrateful. Just a constant stream of thinking about others.

It really is true that when you lose your life, you find it. 

You lose yourself in love, you lose yourself in giving, in serving, and you gain a whole life built on connectedness and the pleasure of feeling God move in you and through you.

And yet God is with me here too, but why so much harder to feel it?

To me, it doesn't seem crazy to convince people to move to Africa to serve the poor and the abused. To let emptying yourself out, radically change you.

To me it seems crazy to build a life here in America. I don't know how to do it.

And yet, who are we without our giving? 
Who are we when the spinning stops?

Will we like ourselves enough when Father is asking us to just be? To just be His.

It doesn't feel right to me yet. But I know this is the next painful step in growing.

How to know who we are outside our function. Outside the thing which has defined us for so long.

Over there I live in a constant thrum of being needed.

Of being necessary. Of being vital. It's strange to be outside the urgency. Is there some happy balance between loving others and also loving myself?

Especially when I don't feel so important now.

How to find new ways to connect. New ways to worship.
New ways to hold gratefulness in my hands for what is here. 

I'm like an addict. I miss it so much.

But there's no doubt to me that God is in this. That there is a new lesson for me to learn here, outside the tyranny of the urgent, outside that need to be needed.

God is not out there somewhere. He is here, now. In this moment.

Whether on these dazzled streets of California, or on that red earth I still call home.

Life is where He is, so life can be anywhere.

We just have to stop and feel it. Breathe deep, and let the fears go.

I'm always the impatient one. Always want to know the right answers and the right way to do something. Always want to have it all figured out. But I'm starting to feel normal again. Slowly. Too slowly for my taste.

But trust is not built on knowing. Trust is built in the grey. In the in-between.
When all the while He is coming towards us, but we just can't see it yet. 

When He's asking us to have compassion not just for the hurting ones, but also for ourselves.

Can we be brave enough to take that leap, whatever it might mean for us?

To let ourselves be scared again. 

We judge ourselves by other people's capacities all the time.

But what is brave for me?

What is brave for you?

Thursday, January 10, 2013


Sometimes the days get dark.

The January cold seems to blow right through you. 

Days where you're not sure you want to get out of bed, and God seems like a dream you had you can't quite remember.

Transitions can be hard.

I don't think I expected that. Expected to find myself in a new place, not knowing anyone, living out of someone's guest room and on other's kindnesses, just craving a space of my own.

A nook. A place I could crawl into to feel sane. Or like my old self again. A routine I could sink my teeth into.

Sometimes we feel like fish out of water and we feel like we're going crazy, but people tell us its normal and it's all going to be ok.

And then four days into the biggest move you can remember making, you get pneumonia and the doctor tells you in a reassuring voice that it's going to take a while for your body to feel normal.

He says annoying things like “rest,” when you're not quite sure how to do that with your suitcases strewn all over the floor and an apartment hunting list a mile long. Where should I rest? How?

Where is my African sun?

Where is the me that gets up and knows what needs to get done that day.
I know it's called culture shock, but putting a label on it doesn't seem to make me feel less like a crazy person.

I keep looking for things I can't find.... “now where did I put that one sweater I own....”
I had a pair of fuzzy boots didn't I?

Instead I just layer on mismatched clothes like a bag lady.

I feel like body parts keep giving up on me. I surrender. You've put me through enough! My eye. It's red and oozing. I can't figure out why. I'm like a creepy, angry cyclops.

I tell my husband he should just leave me for dead somewhere before I have a leg fall off.
I know, dramatic. But it feels dramatic.

Nothing feels right.

I tell myself it's temporary. But we can't wait for things to change.
We have to make a heaven out of hell now.

I bundle myself up into as many layers as I can find (again, think bag lady) and go outside to lie down in the sun.

I take deep breaths. I start to breathe again.

I remember what it is to breathe, as though the last few weeks I've been catching my breath, waiting for the impact.

I feel the warmth on my face start to seep into me.

I look up and watch the clouds shifting through the trees.

And I feel Him again. I start to feel my Father. In a patch of sunlight. 

There you are. I've missed you.

He's there waiting. For us to drink deeply of his love. To lie under the shade of Him. To find a way to connect, however that might look.

He's so faithful. So faithful when we are so faithless, that it makes me want to cry.
He wants us. Even with how messed up we feel. Even with our ugly eye.

But there He is, telling me He's going to take care of me again.
I picture a writing nook in the sun.

And I trust it. I believe it.
It's going to be alright.
I just have to keep the faith.

As the sun dips back into the clouds, I go inside still clinging to this holy moment.
Still clinging to this tenderness.